Taking Great Travel Photos (Part 1 of 2)

Even if you’re not about to run off on vacation, be sure to bookmark this collection of fabulous photography tips from professional photographer (and friend of hipmunk) Mike Scrivener. And if you are about to go on vacation, have fun! We’re not jealous or anything…

Inject life into your landscapes

Beautiful, sweeping landscapes are great, but sometimes they run the risk of being cold and distant. You look at that picture a month later and think, “meh.” Counteract it by putting just a little bit of life into your shots. In the picture of St. Peter’s square, the pigeons were just standing there in the foreground. I did the only sensible thing and charged to get them flying before quickly snapping this shot. Pigeons Don’t shoot everything you see Many people (myself included) will walk into a beautiful locale and feel the urge to just start shooting everything. It’s a natural reaction, but you’re going to hate yourself for it when you get back and sift through hundreds of mediocre photos. Instead, try to make a conscious effort to put the camera down and walk around. Take in the sights, the sounds, the “feeling,” and then, after several minutes, pick up your camera and start shooting. You’ll find that, with a better understanding of a place, your images will be stronger and more accurately represent the experience of being “there.” And you’re on vacation after all, so why not take your time and enjoy it. Colliseum Watch your horizon lines You’re looking at a beautiful vista, with lush green fields stretching far out into a stunning mountain range — where do you put the horizon? We tend to put the horizon in the middle of the photograph. This typically results in either a boring photo or one that is cut into twohalves. Go ahead, play with the horizon. Add more foreground and move the horizon towards the top of the image; or, if the sky or clouds are really dramatic (like in this picture from Maine), drop the horizon down to the bottom of the image and add more sky. Don’t be afraid to put the horizon at an angle, either. MainePay attention to the light Lighting is just as important as framing and focusing your subject, but it’s something that we usually aren’t actively thinking about. The best times of day to shoot are during the early hours of morning and right around sunset. Basically, when the sun isn’t overhead (see Ponte Vecchio shot). Alas, when traveling, we’re often forced to shoot during the harsh, direct sun of midday. In those instances, especially with people, you always have to be aware of where the sun is:

  • Behind you and in your subject’s face?
  • Silhouetting them from behind (so you have to use a flash for fill light)?
  • Coming in from the side and lighting only half of their face?

Move your subject around and watch how the light changes. If the sun is very harsh and there’s a piece of shade nearby, move to the shade. You’ll find that the light will be softer and more even. Even in direct sunlight, you’ll often have to use have some sort of fill light (typically from a flash) to compensate for the dark shadows that a direct, overhead sun will produce. It seems silly to use flash in direct sunlight, but give it a try next time your confronted with the shadows created while Helios’ chariot is right on top of you. Ponte_vecchio Part 2 is here, shutterbug! If you’ve already taken some great travel photos on a trip you booked with hipmunk and would like them to appear on our blog, email them to alexis@hipmunk.com and we’ll give them a shoutout here on the blog!